KEEP GOING AND GROWING
COMMUNITY STORIES | 9.29.2015 | BY KATE EVANS
The night before SATs, when I was 17, I wrapped my car around a tree.
An ambulance, a helicopter ride, life support, and a coma later, I was diagnosed with a TBI. After I woke up, the first memory I have was looking into my blood-shot reflection in the mirror, and feeling the stitches on the side of my head. This is where the doctors had dug out the metal and glass that was submerged into my head when it had smashed through the driver-side window.
I don't remember most of my time at Spaulding Rehabilitation Hospital. Actually, I don't remember about a month of my life at all. I only know what I was told by my doctors and parents. It took ten hours of therapy each day for an entire month to learn how to shower, eat, walk, talk, and brush my teeth, all over again. I was in the hospital finishing up another day of therapy while all of my friends were dancing the night away at an iconic high-school moment; prom. I remember the white corsage my boyfriend [at the time] brought to the hospital for me that night, and how for a fleeting moment, things were back to normal. I also remember the pain caused by him and my best friends when they all walked away from me 8 months later. That’s what's caused the deepest scars through all of this; from people who are unable to understand.
I remember being angry, all of the time.
But that was 6 years ago.
Now, I live in Cambridge MA with two awesome roommates, who build me up and truly make me see the joy in each and every day. I have a great job at a local travel/adventure company, Thomson Safaris, where I learn about African wildlife. Seriously, I watch cute baby elephant videos every day...how cool is that?!
Don't get me wrong, of course I get discouraged. I'm discouraged when I don't understand something like I used to be able to before my accident [which happens frequently.] People and colleagues become frustrated with me. But I find ways to cope. I work at least 50 hours each week because it takes me longer to process information. People make jokes because I can't remember most things, or because I just "can't get it". But there's a lot they don't get, either.
I’m able to stay positive despite feelings of discouragement by setting minor, personal goals - whether it’s accomplishing something professionally, or something as simple as mustering the strength to go out with my friends when I just feel like crawling up and disappearing forever. I’m able to move forward in life by setting aside my fears and anxieties to make these small accomplishments. I need to say no if I haven't had enough sleep, or if I need to clean my room, or if I need to go to the gym. I’m not “lame”. I’m unable to function if my system is broken. People may never be able to understand why, but these tiny systems and milestones give me the clarity [and self-esteem] I need to move forward, and grow as a person!